Nineteen term Congressman Chris Smith makes a strong, seemingly pro-environment statement on his house.gov website: “I believe we have an obligation to ensure a healthy and safe environment for the benefit of current as well as future generations”. As a Congressman representing a fair portion of the Jersey Shore, climate change is of particular importance to Smith’s district given its proximity to the ocean and the physical and economic dangers it creates.
Nonetheless, Smith has repeatedly voted for actions that worsen climate change. This February, the Congressman voted for House Joint Resolution 36, which would remove methane emission caps, allowing more greenhouses gases into the ozone. This isn’t the first time he has pushed for removing caps: in 2016 he voted against an amendment that would have limited methane emissions. Last year the Congressman also voted against a motion promoting clean energy on public lands, voted against an amendment to close loopholes in the Clean Air Act, and supported a bill that would block the EPA from creating carbon pollution standards. According to data from the League of Conservation Voters, Congressman Smith has cast over 230 anti-environment votes since taking office in 1981. These votes show that Smith is consistently ignoring the threat of climate change in favor of partisan politics — putting his constituents and our planet as a whole at risk.
New Jersey’s coastal communities will face particular dangers in the era of climate change. Rising temperatures, caused in part by the emission of greenhouse gases like methane that Smith is voting to retain, are causing sea levels to rise. According to NOAA and a report by Nature Climate Change, rising sea levels could adversely affect over 13 million Americans in the next century. In Monmouth County alone, as many as 25,260 residents would be threatened if a storm or hurricane caused sea levels to rise by three feet. Climate scientists agree that global warming has had an intensifying effect on hurricanes and other natural disasters. The recent storms that pummeled the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico brought storm surges as high as 9 feet and will cost the US over 100 billion dollars in relief and reconstruction efforts. Rising sea levels and storms aren’t the only source of physical and financial damage: higher temperatures, reduced air quality, eroding coastlines, and even an uptick in Lyme disease are all linked to climate change. A report authored last year estimated that the effects of climate change costs the US economy an average of $360 billion a year, and costs are only estimated to rise as the planet gets warmer.
Congressman Smith has not addressed why he has consistently voted against the environment and his constituents’ best interests, and his track record shows little indication that he will. Smith has neglected to hold a public town hall for over 25 years. The Congressman is failing to speak for and speak to the very people he is promised to represent. Climate change poses an acute and chronic threat to the Jersey Shore, and Congressman Smith has refused again and again to stand up against it.
This letter also appeared on Medium.